From weeds and insects to Mother Nature, farmers have a lot to think about when growing the food that ends up on our tables. Farmers use research, technology and pesticides to grow food safely, using fewer resources and leaving a smaller environmental footprint. Read on to find out how farming has changed since the days of our grandparents.
Raising Healthy Crops
Farmers use crop inputs like herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers to keep crops healthy so they can grow quality food.
Herbicides protect crops from weeds; insecticides protect crops from insects; and fungicides protect crops from diseases. Fertilizer consists of mostly naturally occurring nutrients to keep crops and soil healthy. All inputs approved for use must demonstrate that they pose no undue risk to humans, wildlife, fish, waterways or plants, including non-target insects and endangered species.
Up to 40 percent of the world’s crops are lost every year because of weeds, pests and diseases. Thankfully, with crop inputs like the ones listed above, farmers in the United States and South Dakota can protect their crops from losses.
Today’s crop inputs are regulated by federal and state agencies. Before farmers can use them, they must go through testing and become certified. Up to $256 million is spent to research and test new products before they reach the market. The registration and approval process is so rigorous that only one in 139,000 crop inputs reach the marketplace. Registering a new pesticide can take nearly 10 years from start to finish.
New technologies in farming, like precision agriculture, help farmers apply the right amount of crop protection products needed for their crops. They use these products efficiently to control weeds, insects and diseases without negatively affecting the land, air or water. Besides, crop protection products are expensive so farmers don’t want to use more than they have to.
This means you can rest assured that the food you’re buying at the grocery store is safe and nutritious. Farmers shop at the same stores you do. They make the same food choices as you and, at the end of the day, they sit around a table with their families and eat the same foods as you do.
Source: Glass Barn
Soybeans are a versatile crop that can be used in food ingredients, animal feed, fuel production and much more. Here’s a look into what happens in five months of growth.
Spring – Soybeans are planted in early to mid-May. Five to 21 days after they’re planted, the first leaves, or cotyledons emerge. From there, the plant starts to develop more and more sets of leaves. These beginning stages are critical for the plant’s growth.
Summer – Once the leaves are established, the soybean plant starts to develop open purple flowers on its upper nodes to help in reproduction. Then, each plant starts setting pods, which are eventually filled with seeds.
Fall – In September, soybean pods change color from green to brown, which means they are reaching maturity. Farmers head out to the fields with their combines to harvest the crop, usually in October.
Farm chemicals, like pesticides and fertilizers, are powerful products that farmers take seriously. Before any farmer can use farm chemicals, they must go through testing to become certified. This ensures they understand how to safely handle the chemicals, properly apply them, keep our communities safe, protect the environment and reduce risk to those who are applying them. The EPA makes sure label instructions are clear and easy to use, and that the pesticide does not place workers at risk. Here’s a look at what goes into proper applications:
- Rate – Today’s farm equipment and technology allow farmers to be precise in where they apply pesticides and fertilizer, reducing the overall amount applied while being more effective in the process.
- Time – During certain times in the growing season, a plant might need more nutrients, have to battle tough weeds or face disease pressures. Farmers take all this into consideration when deciding when and how often to spray.
- Place – Crops can only access fertilizers or pesticides if they are applied in the right place, and farmers need to be specific about how they apply them. Measures for effective use are established to help protect the environment. One example is creating “no-spray” buffer zones around communities and waterways. This helps provide a sustainable future for our food system.
“One misunderstanding that I frequently hear is that farmers spray as much pesticides on crops as possible. That’s not true. The USDA regulates pesticides, and they’re expensive. Using pesticides in my garden and on the farm helps make my job easier and helps plants reach their full potential.” – Morgan, farmer from Colman